The Church has records back to 830 AD (when King Alfred was burning the cakes!) The priest Werherdus was able to give the parish and Manor of Hayes to the Bishops of Canterbury. There are no parts of that Saxon church visible but relicts have been found in the foundations and are incorporated into the base of the Tower.
The present building consisted of the present Chancel and first part of the Nave. Notice the extent of the Wagon roofing and its alignment to the rest of the Nave. Evidence of the early tiles can be seen on either side of the chancel step. On the north side of the chancel is an example of the early decoration. The architecture of the East Window is in the early perpendicular style as are the lancelet windows although one on the south side was modified significantly. All the glass was removed at the Reformation and is now glazed with Victorian glass. This is described in our booklet “the Stories in the Windows of Saint Mary”, 2008. There is an original Piscina and an aumbry. The Sedilia was modified in the 1870 Bodley Scott restoration in line with Tractarian ideas. The priest's entry door to the sanctuary was also removed.
With the Dissolution of the Monasteries, Iocal gentry could no longer be buried at the abbeys and monasteries and so sought burial in their parish churches. Most of the ledger tomb stones are lords of the Manor of the Ienkyns (Jenkins) family but there are 2 early brasses. The brass of Robert Lellee in Eucharistic vestments has been dated to his time in the parish in 1370. Adjacent to it is a brass to Robert Burgeys, the Rector, from 1421. The Chancel is dominated by the tomb of Sir Edward Fenner who died in 1611. He is described as one of Her Majesty’s Justices and show wearing his judicial robes. The bust memorial in the south east corner is alleged to be his son who died a few years later.
The monuments on the walls are also local dignitaries and rectors. The west most ledger stones are a mixture of people and worth study. After the removal of the stone altars, King James substituted the wooden Holy Table for use in the Holy Communion. The wooden altar is inscribed with the date of 1605 and links it to the King James reformations of that period. A stone high altar was not restored until 1937 some three hundred years later. Not all parishioners agreed with the changes as show by the ledger in front of the wooden altar. Henry Clerke who died in 1609 has the brass inscription that "he died in the true faith of Christ 1609".
The extension of the church included the addition of the North aisle with its smaller columns and corbels supporting the extended Nave roof. The painting of Saint Christopher and the Infant Jesus on the wall is dated from 1400s. It contains images of a hermit emerging from his cave; a lad fishing; a mermaid combing her hair; a number of different fish and a dog in the stream. It has been damaged by rain following the theft of lead from the roof. It was uncovered during the 1870 restoration after being covered by lime-wash for over 300 years. There are other early paintings partly uncovered on the walls and by the Coronation Window.
The altar tomb is Walter Grene from 1456. The brass is particularly interesting containing a griffin at his feet. He was 8 times Member of Parliament, Justice of the Peace for 2 long periods and Controller of Tonnage and Poundage in the Port of London. His second wife was the daughter of Robert Warner and owner of Cowley Peachey. This tomb was a Chantry and the parclose that separated it from the Nave is now part of the screen below the organ pipes.
The monuments of the wall are mainly benefactors and priests of the parish. The north door has its own descriptive brass. The Triptych is by Edward Fellowes Prynne (1854-1921). He was an eminent Victorian painter with a portrait of Prince Albert in the Greenwich Maritime Museumhttp://www.nmm.ac.uk/collections/prints/listPrints.cfm?term=Fellowes%20prynne&field=&images=0 and paintings as far a field as the central museum in Bagdadhttp://www.baghdadmuseum.org/context_e.htm . He is the artist of the stained windows in Saint Peter’s church in Staines. His younger brother was George Fellowes Prynne. He carved the reredos which is now in the south aisle. It has carvings of St Anselm and St George and a Tabernacle and Throne reflecting his contact with the Tractarians. Although both brothers died in Ealing, they are buried in our graveyard.
The oldest visible object inside the church is the Font. This has been dated to 1260 and has the carved acanthus motif round the sides. The eight columns were a reminder to the people of God’s deliverance of Noah from the waters of the Flood. It is now in its third position but still near the north entrance to the church. The vestry beyond the font was added in the 1870s below the windows of Saints James and John. The memorial windows to its right commemorated our daughter churches of Saint Anselm and Saint Nicholas.
The south aisle was added in the 1500s. The columns are taller to take the nine- sectioned barrel roof over the nave. The table tomb is Sir Thomas and Lady Elizabeth Higate (1576). The brass on top shows the parents with their 5 sons and 4 daughters at their feet. Parts of the brass have been stolen during the 20th century. Above the tomb is a monumental brass to Major General Neild and his son Edward. Edward died with the Sherwood Foresters and is believed to be portrayed in the memorial window above the brass receiving the Crown of Life. The second monumental brass remembers the Shackles family of Botwell who were benefactors of the parish.
Set in the floor are two memorial brass plates. The first is Veare wife of Thomas Jenyns. She died in 1644 aged 28 having borne him 6 sons and 4 daughters in eleven and a half years of marriage. Her father was Sir James Palmer, of Dorney, Bucks. He was a personal friend of King Charles I, Gentleman Usher to his Privy Chamber and Chancellor of the Order of the Garter. A rubbing of this brass is on exhibition in Dorney Court.
The other plate is Edward Chinn Walker who died of “Hooping” cough age two years nine months in 1810. There is a note in the register, “It was intended that the infant should be interred in the Chancel but upon examination it was found to be completely full and that this ground may not again be unnecessarily disturbed.” Signed by J. N. Freeman, Vicar. Why should this child have such special privileged? His father, also William Walker, and Uncle Dr Adam Walker were famous astronomers. They invented the Eidouranion and lectured on astronomy. The uncle taught Percy Bysshe Shelley at Syon House Academy and Eton. He also allowed Shelley’s cousin, Tom Medwin, to view the rings of Saturn through his telescope. Their eminence was not sufficiently great for them to be remembered inside the church. They have a stone plaque and tomb outside the East window.
The Reredos below the Faith Hope and Charity window was carved by George Fellowes Prynne (1853-1927). It depicts Saint Anselm and Saint George in the niches and has a tabernacle (aumbry) and throne at its centre. There were a number of carved panels associated with this item. The carver was famous for his church architecture. He designed many churches and carved stone screens in this country but also as fara a field as South Africa and Colombo Cathedral in Sri Lanka. http://www.gfp.sharville.org.uk/work.htm He was the younger brother of Edward who painted the triptych. He is buried with his wife in our graveyard.
The “Bethany” windows in the South Aisle are worthy of special attention. The wall memorials are associated with the parish but the Bust of Revd Charles Manning is important because of his friendship with John and Charles Wesley. The Wesleys carried out services in the church and also baptised a child during his Vicariate. The Manning family also have a ledger stone near the Font. The Board over the south porch door lists the “Amalgamated Hayes Charities.” Many of the benefactors are listed around the walls of the church.
The main part of the nave is covered with moulded ribs and dates from the early sixteenth century. At the intersections of each panel are bosses which bear emblems pertaining to the royal families of England and Aragon during the reigns of Henry VII and Henry VIII. These are mingled with traditional representations of Our Lord’s passion. (The Cross, the Robe, The Pierced Heart, Hands and Feet; the Nails and the Cincture.) When the bosses were reguilded in the 1970s several new features were added to replace disintegrated bosses. They are the motifs of the Scouts, Cubs, Brownies and the Mothers Union.
There is a ledger stone to Revd. Samuel Spencer (1730) with the curious inscription:
“Just underneath, there lays a Priest interred, not lead by Error into factions heard, no Sectaries encouraging at home, proof against those as well as those of Rome.” Above this stone is a case in the western arch holding the organ pipes. The initial sounding pipes were designed by Dr Stephen Dykes-Bower but it has been extended and enlarged in more recent times.
The West Door is no longer in general use but the area is lined by panels, from Shakespeare’s time, installed from Stratford on Avon parish church in 1890s. The Tower was rebuilt in 1970 when the peal of six bells was recast to a new set of eight bells. Details of the bells and tower are described in the leaflet “The Bells of Saint Mary’s.” The Tower is no longer open to public access but excellent views as far as the city of London can be seen.